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Coverage and content of Historic Environment Record

The Dorset Historic Environment Record is a record of all known archaeological finds and features and historic buildings in the county, and relating to all periods from the earliest human activity to the present day.

We aspire to provide comprehensive coverage for all aspects of the archaeological and built environment.

Geographic coverage

The geographic county of Dorset consists of a rural county with two-tier local government and the two unitary authorities of Poole and Bournemouth, which together cover an area of 265,275 hectares or approximately 2,653 km².

Local government in Dorset comprises two-tier government in the largely rural county (Dorset County Council and Christchurch Borough Council, East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council, West Dorset District Council, and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council) and two unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole. Dorset County Council maintains the HER for the two unitary authorities, as well as the rural county.

Maritime coverage

The Dorset HER also contains maritime records from the high water mark, or the top of the beach, to an approximate mid-Channel line (50° north), with an eastern boundary at 1° 36' west, and a western boundary of 3° 2' 30" west.

The eastern boundary of 1° 36' west overlaps the county boundary which lies at 1° 41' 30" west. Similarly, the western boundary at 3° 2' 30" west overlaps the county boundary which lies at 2° 56' 33" west. The difference allows for errors in reporting and enables records to be easily sorted. The eastern boundary overlaps with the area surveyed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology. The southern boundary of 50° north approximates to the mid-channel line.

Historic Environment Record (HER) content

The Dorset HER contains, and seeks to provide comprehensive information on:

  • designated heritage assets of national importance
  • locally-designated heritage assets
  • heritage assets with archaeological interest that are neither nationally nor locally designated (including assets that are known to have been demolished or destroyed or known only from antiquarian sources, assets which do not meet the criteria for national or local designation, and those which have yet to be formally assessed as such)
  • other heritage assets with historic, architectural and artistic interest that are of local significance (including undesignated historic buildings, parks and gardens and historic places commemorating events and people)
  • findspots, including archaeological objects and their findspots recorded under the Portable Antiquities Scheme
  • investigations of the archaeological, architectural, historic or artistic interest of a place or landscape, including desk-based assessments, field evaluations, excavation reports, archaeological watching briefs, environmental assessments, conservation management plans and assessments, reports on significance from Design and Access Statements, and record reports on buildings
  • historic area assessments and characterisation studies, conservation area appraisals and management plans
  • output from the National Mapping Programme
  • scientific data relevant to the understanding of heritage assets such as borehole logs, absolute dating and palaeoenvironmental data
  • documentation, such as Listed Building Heritage Partnership Agreements, Local Listed Building Consent Orders and (National) Listed Building Consent Orders, which derive from changes to the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

Historic Environment Record database

The Dorset HER includes a database that contains more than 35,000 records with information about remains from the prehistoric period to the present day. Information on nationally-designated (conservation areas, listed buildings, registered parks and gardens and scheduled monuments), locally designated and undesignated heritage assets is recorded. As well as information on archaeological finds and features and historic buildings (all known as 'Monuments' in our technical jargon), episodes of recognition and recording (known as 'Events') and the various sources from which information about them has been drawn (known as 'Sources'), are recorded in the HER.

The database is linked to a Geographic Information System (GIS) with geographical depictions of all sites on the database, ranging from simple point locations to complex plots of extensive sites such as ancient field systems, and supplemented by material such as reports on work that has taken place as part of the planning process and photographs.

HER library

Resources available in the HER space include journals, books, reports, and some photographs and maps, which are used by the Historic Environment team, as well as being available for public consultation.

  • journals - a limited number of archaeological journals, principally the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, and offprints of papers from other journals
  • archaeological reports resulting from developer-funded archaeological work, which are generally unpublished (called 'grey literature' in archaeological jargon)
  • monographs, principally those published by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, English Heritage, and by academics and various archaeological contractors relating to excavations in Dorset
  • reports, pamphlets, dissertations and other publications submitted to the HER by archaeologists and local historians (amateur and professional), students and researchers
  • files on Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Registered Parks and Gardens, and Conservation Areas
  • aerial photographs. Some prints of vertical aerial photographs taken by the RAF in the late 1940s. Prints of vertical aerial photographic surveys commissioned by Dorset County Council in the 1970s and 1980s in particular
  • a variety of material relating to historic buildings created by Dorset County Council historic buildings officers. In the process of being catalogued. Includes photographs, sketches and some building survey reports

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